The Red Wings were looking to rebound from an ugly loss the night before, and rookie Lucas Raymond made sure they did.
Raymond had a three-goal night Sunday in only his sixth NHL game, carrying the Wings to a 6-3 victory over the woeful Chicago Blackhawks.
Raymond snapped a power-play goal midway in the third period to complete his hat trick, and fourth goal this season, and ice the victory.
“It was fun, for sure,” Raymond said. “To get the bounceback win after a tough night last night (loss in Montreal) and first hat trick. You’re always trying to score and sometimes you do and just trying to keep pushing. My mindset was to just win the game and the scores helped.”
It was the first hat trick for a Wings player age 19 or younger since Steve Yzerman — who drafted Raymond in the first round in 2020 (fourth overall) — in 1985. Only Yzerman, Gordie Howe and Raymond have notched four points in a game.
“It’s tough to take in,” Raymond said of being in that sort of company. “Those two are the greatest to play in franchise history. I’m trying not to think about it too much and just keep playing and working.”
Raymond continues to play a varied and productive all-around game, which coach Jeff Blashill has been impressed with.
“He does it right at both ends of the ice,” Blashill said. “He’s getting a hell of an opportunity and he’s earned some of it but he’s in the NHL at a young age, which not a lot of young guys get to do. He’s playing with some real good players on a good line and getting important minutes and he’s capitalized on that.”
After two consecutive teams — Calgary and Montreal — took advantage of the Red Wings to win their first game within the last week, the Wings didn’t let Chicago do it.
“Wins in this league are hard to come by and we want to be a team that finds ways to be a more successful team and one of those things is to find away to net let losses snowball,” Blashill said. “We had two (losses) and it was a big game for us. We had to find a way to put our foot down and play better hockey.”
A four-goal second period for the Wings (3-2-1) snapped a 1-1 tie and ignited the Wings over the disheartened Blackhawks, who are winless in six games to open the season (0-5-1).
As a matter of fact, the Blackhawks have never led this season, a sign of their disappointing play.
The Wings’ top line of Raymond (three goals, one assist), Tyler Bertuzzi (one goal, two assists) and Dylan Larkin (three assists) had a dominant night, leading the offensive barrage.
“That line was good from a production standpoint but they weren’t alone,” Blashill said. “It was a good team effort.”
Carter Rowney and Vladislav Namestnikov added goals, Mitchell Stephens had two assists and goaltender Alex Nedeljkovic had 32 saves for his first win as a Red Wing, as the Wings rebounded from Saturday’s 6-1 drubbing in Montreal.
Rowney (first goal), Namestnikov (third) and Bertuzzi (team-leading sixth) scored goals 4 minutes, 57 seconds apart in the second period, snapping a 1-1 tie.
All three goals were near Chicago’s net, batting in loose pucks, as Blackhawks defenders left goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury to fend for himself most of the game.
“We found a way to score dirty goals,” Blashill said.
Chicago’s Henrik Borgstrom cut the Wings’ lead to 5-3 early in the third period, but Raymond’s third goal regained the three-goal lead for the Wings.
Chicago’s Jonathon Toews appeared to make it 6-4 on the power play, but the Wings successfully challenged the goal, as Nedeljkovic was pushed into the net. Nedeljkovic made a brilliant stick save on Alex DeBrincat (Farmington Hills) on an ensuing two-man Chicago advantage, maintaining the three-goal lead.
“I saw that (save), he (Nedeljkovic) was amazing,” Raymond said. “He was great, basically saved us out there in the third period,”
Said Blashill, of Nedeljkovic’s game: “Ned raised his game to another level at that point, once we got into that situation (killing continuous 5-on-3’s). He was excllent and we had some big blocks and real smart players. Those are hard to kill and we did a good job with it.”
The Blackhawks were without star forward Patrick Kane, who was unavailable because he’s in COVID-19 protocol.
Blashill massaged the Wings’ lineup Sunday, keeping defenseman Filip Hronek as a healthy scratch for the second consecutive night.
“Any message I share with Fil will, like between any other player and me, I don’t feel any reason to have public comment on any of that stuff,” Blashill said. “We have a lot of good players and we have many in terms of the depth situation to play every night, so different guys will out of the lineup and that’s the reality of life.”
With Bertuzzi back in the lineup Sunday — Bertuzzi couldn’t play Saturday in Montreal because of not being vaccinated, making him unable to cross the border into Canada — the Wings scratched forward Givani Smith from the lineup.
With his three points Sunday, Bertuzzi has nine points in five games, joining Henrik Zetterberg (2015-16, nine points) and Brendan Shanahan (2001-02, 10 points) as the only Wings to accomplish the offensive milestone.
“We’re a better team for sure when Tyler is in the lineup and it was good to have him back,” Blashill said.